Doors, Dogs, and Doubt

photoSo it has finally begun. I realize I’ve been quiet on the topic of our adoption journey since I’ve first started this blog early last year.

Well, with our classes out of the way (not much to blog about there), the paper work filled out (most of if), and house made as child-proof as can be (the picture here is of our future child’s room), I am thrilled to say that we had our first home study visit yesterday evening.

We’ve been worried sick over this visit for the past couple of months. When we brought it to the attention of the foster-to-adopt class that we live in a loft – a home without doors – we were practically laughed out of the program.

It was humiliating, for sure. But it only angered me. First off, Sarabeth had drawn a perfect blueprint of our home (as instructed) showing that the two bedrooms are completely separate – each at the end of our U-shaped loft. There’s lots of privacy.

The second thing that angered me was how quickly the minds of our fellow classmates – prospective foster-to-adopt parents – sunk into the gutter – hence all the laughter.

We could put up a door, separating the nook and bedroom from the living room, but it would significantly devalue the worth of the loft. So, in the interest of financial planning, that was not feasable.

The second thing we were worried about was our three dogs. Dachshunds. And if you know dachshunds, they’re known for four things: cuddling, sensitive backs, barking, and lots more barking.

It’s stressful having people over knowing the dogs are going to spend the first ten minutes barking their fool heads off. So, over time we’ve learned different strategies of keeping them at bay (locking them up) and shortening the length of barking time (bribery with treats that require perseverance and time to get through).

So needless to say, we were prepared for the home study visit to end with, “Call me when you get some doors up, and you get your dogs under control.”

I won’t bore you with the details, but let me just say that last night’s visit couldn’t have gone any better. The case worker, who was a wonderfully nice person – to our surprise – didn’t see any problem with us having no doors as our bedrooms are indeed very separate from each other.

…And she was a dog lover! She had two of her own – a collie and a something Shepherd (Australian, German, I forget – either way, the kind of big dogs I would like to have one day).

So all this to encourage you, if you’re living in a world of worry, or anxiety is keeping you up at night, and you don’t have the strength or faith to pray about it (like me), keep your friends in the loop and they’ll pray on your behalf. Many of our friends and family members prayed for us, and we’re so thankful.

So, with just a few more things to check off our list, we’re almost approved to be foster-to-adopt parents – and so, so excited, and shocked, and simply thankful.

Yeah, despite all the worrying, things are starting to fall into place. I bet it’s that way for most other people as well.

It’s Finally Here!

“Andrew Toy has created a unique and interesting story that spans several genres from mystery and adventure to fantasy … Toy’s debut novel will leave readers talking and will make them instant fans of his storytelling abilities. This will surely be a must-read for every adult that once created a world of their own when they were young, just by using their imaginations.”

-Nicole McManus, reviewer and blogger

My publisher handed me several copies of my book, The Man in the Box, yesterday in a … well, box. To many, it may seem like I’ve accomplished my dream of publishing a book. But that wasn’t my dream. As elated as I was to finally see my book in print, I still can’t ignore the ultimate goal. My occupational dream is to become a full-time author, and there’s still miles to go before I get there.

I know no amount of begging or coercing can get unwilling people to buy my book. I cannot even make promises that you will absolutely love it (though there’s little doubt that you will). But I can share facts, and throughout history facts have caused decisions to be made which might not have otherwise been made, stubborn minds to shift, and cold hearts to thaw. Here are some facts about my book, The Man in the Box, that I hope will persuade skeptics to look into purchasing a copy.

1. I spent three years writing this book, pouring over plot points, struggling with story lines, and not once being satisfied with nothing but the best possible results. I labored ruthlessly to develop something that is unique, unpredictable, and that appeals to all audiences in some way or another. I believe with this book, I have done just that. I invite you to be the judge.

2. Purchasing a copy of my book will help Sarabeth and me to get one step closer to adopting a child. That’s what this site is all about, isn’t it? Sharing our story and raising support to help bring a parentless child into our home. If you purchase The Man in the Box, not only are you investing in a good read, but you are helping us to become the foster-to-adopt parents we long to be. If you want to go an extra step for our cause, review my book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, any place that lets you.

3. I’ve selected six people with impressive platforms to read and review my book. I expected two to not ever get back to me, and at least one to not even like it. All six spoke very highly of it, and would (and do) recommend it to people. They were all breathless in suspense, and also recognized the core themes of the book, which are meant to cause readers to ponder the deeper things in life. You can read some of the reviews here.

4. Alright, I can’t help it. I’ve got to say it. You will LOVE this book! It’s truly got something in it for everyone. If you liked Jurassic Park, The Hunger Games, King Kong, zombies, jungle adventures, family sagas, inspiration, then this book is for you. I’m urging you to get it as soon as you can, because it is my goal to have it become a best seller. Wouldn’t it be fun to say you were one of the first to read it? And remember, Christmas is coming soon, so if you know of anyone who is always looking for their next favorite book, this book is it. They’ll thank you for it.

You can order your copy of The Man in the Box from any of the links below. You won’t regret it.

AmazonBarnes and NobleBlackwyrm. Or, add it to your goodreads bookshelf. And get it on your Kindle here.

“Expect dinosaurs and giant creepy-crawlies. And if that kind of thing scares you, then you’re like me, which means you’ll go ahead and read the book anyway, with no one to blame but yourself for all the flinching you’ll do … There was no going to bed until I’d reached the end. The suspense had me on the edge of my seat with worry about how everyone was going to get out of this, heart thumping out of control the whole time, except for that one minute where it almost stopped.”

-Danielle E. Shipley, author and blogger

Read Chapter Three here.

For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 2

For the first part of this review, click here.

“Is the Bible the best God can do?” asks Bell. Apparently not, because he doesn’t seem to be sure God even wrote the Bible to begin with. He wonders if Corinthians, for example, is written by Paul or God or God through Paul or Paul through God. I wonder, as he’s standing at the pulpit on Sunday mornings preaching through 1 Timothy what he does with chapter 3 verse 16 (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”), but there’s really no reason for him to preach out of the Bible anyway, according to him. 

“The Bible is open-ended,” he says. “We cannot simply do what it says,” because it first must be interpreted. Meaning, “Someone has to decide what it means.” Yes, he’s saying that the Bible can be interpreted in any way we’d like. “When someone tells you what the Bible means, it’s not true.” It’s just their interpretation. Yes, this man is the pastor of a mega church. If you’re not yet wondering about the devastating effects of the gut-wrenching statements here, take the time to read some reviews on this book online. People really think this is deep, sound, theological teaching and many say it has changed their lives. I have no doubt their lives have been changed because Rob Bell the “superpastor” is releasing people from the obligation of obeying the Words of God. No one ever said a changed life is a holy life. 

To take this hellish theology further, he gives the example of a leader in his church who had a question about a section found in the Bible and after asking many learned people and consulting many references to no avail, she in the end, decided to just go right back to the Bible to see what it had to say about this topic. Bell’s response? That’s “toxic.” And if that’s not far enough, he says that Jesus Himself gives His followers permission to make new interpretations of the Bible (somehow he gets this idea from Matthew 16:9 and 18:18).

Earlier in his book he admitted that Jesus came to fulfill the Word of God by giving it flesh and bones. Now he’s telling his readers to do what they think Jesus is saying, not what He is saying. After all, it wasn’t until the 300’s the sixty-six books were agreed upon, according to Bell. “This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.” 

If you want to irk Bell, tell him that you attend a church that teaches the Bible. According to him a church that’s growing has an easy yoke. Do you want to know why that church has “easy yoke”? Because it’s not holding its congregation to the standards of the Bible. The church may present an easier yoke on Sunday, but what are the attendee’s lives like the rest of the week, being starved for the Word of God, and having it withheld time after time?

Many yokes seem easy, which is what people will likely flock to. People want the easiest dieting books, the simplest instructions, the lighter load, the church that has very few standards and does not convict with the two-edged sword of the Holy Word of God. Many churches like this will grow. And why shouldn’t they? They’re giving out milk and honey! But over time that trampoline will get overcrowded and the few springs holding everyone up will give way and the party will end when the whole thing comes crashing down. Did I mention that not once, if my memory serves correctly, does Bell make any reference to Satan and the unseen world? 

To be concluded…

 

First Review

adoptingjames:

Here is the first review for my debut novel, The Man in the Box. Check out the rest of this person’s blog for other book recommendations.

Originally posted on Ariesgrl Book Reviews:

By: Andrew Toy. Format: eBook. Read: September 2012.

     Robbie Lake was counting down the days until his island vacation with his family. Everything was going as planned, until the unexpected happened. While dealing with the unfortunate consequences of being laid-off, Robbie stumbles upon a box that sends him to a whole other world. In Reveloin, people fear for their lives and they are excited to return Robbie to his throne. Only one problem, Robbie has no memory of this world or why the people are treating him like they have been waiting for his return. As his reality is turned upside down and as his dreams become reality, Robbie Lake must decide what is more important, his family or a whole civilization?

     Andrew Toy has created a unique and interesting story that spans several genres from mystery and adventure to fantasy. Robbie Lake is a modern-day adult Peter…

View original 194 more words

For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 1

I wrote this a while back after reading Velvet Elvis by Robb Bell. I knew the book had stirred up a whirlwind of controversy in Christian circles, and before arguing one way or the other I decided to give the guy a chance (I liked his Nooma videos) and see what he had to say before choosing a “side.”

I wrote this back in 2009. Because of the length, I have broken it up into a few different posts. I’d love to hear from you all your thoughts:

It should go without saying that when you see the subtitle of a Christian book labeled, “Repainting the Christian Faith,” you should proceed with caution, should you decide to proceed at all. 
In this disjointed book, Rob Bell seems to want the theme to be about rethinking Christianity and the Bible as, according to him, Jesus did (that’s right, you’re going to hear a lot about a second-guessing Savior). One of his main points is that we are to reform Christianity. Or, as he puts it, we are to be “reforming theology. He uses the example of Martin Luther who exposed the sins of the church leaders to make the church about God and the people and not about business and stale religion. That’s a fine example to use, if Bell is speaking to an audience of money changers. But he’s speaking to you and me, Christians striving to live according to the Word of God because we love Him

And that’s just the introduction. He then begins his first chapter by explaining how everything, at some point had to be named. At some point God’s Spirit had to be named by us, and even the Trinity was once nameless until we came along. And then he subtly suggests that the Spirit of God is not eternal. That at some point, “God became the Spirit so He could be everywhere.” This also implies God was not (and cannot be on His own) omnipresent

Concerning the doctrine found in the Bible, [Bell] points his readers to the example of a trampoline. He seems to be unclear as to whether the net itself is God or if it’s Christianity or what, but the springs are what he focuses on. They are the doctrine that holds everything together. You can remove the springs (doctrine), stretch them, pull them, examine them. If you take one or two springs off of the trampoline, it will not fail, it won’t collapse. This is where the famous controversy comes in: that the virgin birth was not necessary to fulfill Scripture.

In his defense he claims to believe in the virgin birth. But what I find to be more startling than his example of the virgin birth is that he claims that ultimately you can take any prophecy or truth out of the Bible and Christianity still remains unfaltering, somehow leaving you with a sturdy foundation to stand upon. He contrasts this analogy of a trampoline to that of a brick wall where it’s assumed if you take out one unchanging, solid brick, the whole wall will crumble. Plus, Bell says that a wall is meant to be guarded by keeping people out as opposed to enjoying the amusement of a trampoline and inviting others to join you. It’s because you love jumping on the trampoline that you’re going to invite people to join you, he continues, just like if you really love God, you’ll invite people to experience Him. “You rarely defend things you love,” he says. I’d sure hate to have him as the leader of my family [when a burglar breaks in].

He then goes on to describe a leader that is much desired and sought after. One who has more questions than answers. He uses Jesus as an example in that He answered a lot of questions with questions. So in response to the questions people have, Bell boasts in a “Doubt Night” he holds at a church where people are invited to write their questions down on a slip of paper and have them read publicly. (“Why do babies die?”, “Why do bad guys have all the fun?” etc.) In my mind, this can only accomplish one purpose: create more doubt in already [wavering] minds, and without these questions being backed up by answers, I can only imagine how hazardous this kind of thinking is to a young Christian who is already plagued with uncertainties.

Bell says people don’t want a leader with all the answers [I'm assuming political jokes would not be welcome here], but someone who has questions themselves. So while Rob and his pals are doing somersaults and throwing pity parties on his springless trampoline, I think I’ll choose to invest my faith and efforts in those who are laying their lives and reputations on the line by defending the wall as if it’s their very home. They take the Word of God very seriously because they recognize that there are eternal consequences in regard to what we choose to put our faith in. 

To be Continued…

The Strength of Mercy

For those of you familiar with All God’s Children International, here is a book that documents its humble origins, written by Jan Beazely, one of the main instruments in getting this mission off the ground.

It’s hard to step out in faith sometimes, but we’re left with no excuse after watching the Beazely family make one faith-filled decision after another, following God’s guidance like stepping stones. The Strength of Mercy is the story of how a girl named Heather took a curious path for her life which lead to the adoption of her sister, and ultimately hundreds of children throughout the world. Here is an excerpt from the book:

“As I look back on what has unfolded during the past several years, I am awed by what god has accomplished. I’ve rediscovered – on an almost daily basis – that when we yield in trusting surrender, we are ushered into the very center of His will, further than we dreamed possible.

God’s divine direction and the strength of His mercy were first experienced intimately in our home. Our greatest hopes and fondest desires as parents culminated in this amazing journey that our daughter – and our entire family – was called to take. Not only did we hope for the fulfillment of the promise God had given me so many years earlier, but it was also an incredible privilege to watch our oldest daughter walk and talk with the Lord on such intimate terms. To watch her strain to hear His voice and then obediently move forward, even when He didn’t explain Himself, was pure delight. It was the most precious gift a parent could ever hope for. Our once-rebellious teenager was transformed into a woman of courage and grace before our very eyes. In the transition, God used her to rescue a needy child – her sister, our new daughter. 

Then God invited us as a family to share this same mercy with the world. When I first received God’s promise back in October 1985, I could never have dreamed that we would bring more than 300 children out of Eastern Europe to new homes and a new life … Neither could I have foreseen working in the countries of Bulgaria, China, Russia, Hungary, Macedonia, and Honduras…

For a truly redemptive story on the power of grace and the beauty and divine possibility of adoption, I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It would do some of us a lot of good to be reminded that even today, outside the pages of the Bible, it is still possible to follow God in faith even if the world is hostile against our decisions. Does anyone else have a good adoption-themed book to recommend to us?

Theo: Adopted into God’s Family

For those of you with little kids looking for quality entertainment less intense than Disney but deeper than Veggietales, look no further than this new Christian children’s series, Theo. Created by Mike Joens, the storyboard artist and animation producer/director for McGee and Me! and Adventures in Odyssey, this traditionally animated (2-d) cartoon series is centered around a friendly English gentleman who is a student of God’s Word and lives in a large house with two witty British mice. The series is faithful to guide viewers into the basics of systematic theology.

I want to point out an episode I had the opportunity to preview recently. It’s about adoption. The ten minute video does a very good job teaching on adoption’s basic foundational truths and the idea that people very different from us can indeed be adopted into our families and called brother or sister or son or daughter.

For families with kids looking into adoption, you might want to take special care to watch this video with your young ones. It can serve as a very good tool to help aid a discussion about what your family is preparing to do. It will help your kids not see adoption as just taking some outsider into the family, but how that is so significant of a move to the adopted one, and it ties in how we also, if given our lives to Christ, have been adopted into God’s family and how that is significant to us.

Check out the website here. You’ll find other videos you can order that deal with a few other doctrines of faith. McGee and Me! and Adventures in Odyssey lovers especially will find this series endearing and even a bit nostalgic.

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